Among Christians, it is generally accepted that the Bible is made up of the Old and New Testaments, with a few extra texts forming the Apocrypha. However, the road to this broad consensus took thousands of years, major theological councils, and several lives. It also left many texts behind - texts that could easily have been included in the Bible but for an accident of history. Some of these pseudo-canonical texts include the so-called "Gnostic gospels."
The bulk of the New Testament was written in the 200 years after Christ passed. The latest of the four gospels, John, was written around a hundred years after the birth of Christ, and it is unlikely any of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the events they describe. Unsurprisingly, several other gospels exist - gospels that often contradict the events of the canonical Bible.
Enter the Gnostic gospels. Found in 1945 near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt, these texts were mostly written after the canonical gospels, but largely deal with the same events: the life, infancy, ministry, and passing of Jesus Christ. These gospels were suppressed by the early church for a number of reasons - some because they indirectly deny the divinity of Christ, some because they radically reinterpret important biblical stories.
While the church rejects them, the Gnostic gospels were written in close proximity to the days of Christ, and they contain tantalizing clues to alternate versions of Christianity that very easily could have been.
In The 'Hypostasis Of The Archons,' Noah's Wife Burns Down The Ark
Noah's wife is unnamed in the Bible, but in the Gnostic gospels she is called Norea. She is Eve's first daughter and has special knowledge and powers. In the Gospel "Hypostasis of the Archons," Norea is a key player in the drama of Noah's ark.
When Noah is first charged to construct an ark, Norea argues against it. In this gospel, God decides to end mankind not because humans are wicked but because they're growing too wise and God is jealous. Norea objects to the idea of the ark and eventually conspires to burn it down.
Noah rebuilds the ark, and Norea is targeted by the forces of evil, which are bent on sexually assaulting her. At the last minute, she calls out to God, who sends an angel to protect her.
The 'Apocryphon Of John' Claims Adam And Eve Were Not Material Beings
Many Gnostic texts focus on cosmology. They tend to feature sweeping hierarchies of gods, angels, and archons (malevolent beings that oversee the material world), with each occupying a distinct place in the Gnostic pantheon.
In the "Apocryphon of John," this extends to Adam and Eve: They are represented not as flesh-and-blood humans created by God, but as manifestations of psychic energy. Before Adam even appears, God fuses together several abstract concepts, such as foreknowledge, indestructibility, and truth, to help him create Adam. When Adam is finally created, it is as a psychic manifestation of these concepts.
The 'Gospel Of Peter' Features A Talking Cross At Jesus's Resurrection
The Gnostic "Gospel of Peter" generally agrees with the traditional Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but it also features some truly odd additions regarding Jesus's demise and resurrection.
First, Jesus is taken from the cross by two large angels, including one whose head "reached unto the heaven." Jesus himself is described as being even larger, his head towering over the clouds. But that's not even the strangest thing. A booming voice then calls out from the heavens, "Thou hast preached to them that sleep."
And the cross itself answers, "Yea."
The 'Hypostasis Of The Archons' Discusses Sophia, Another Creator Who Inhabited Eden's Serpent
The "Hypostasis of the Archons" literally means "the reality of the rulers." It includes an array of spiritual entities, including another creator, Pistis Sophia, an incorruptible celestial force who seems to be a kind of distant consort of God. Indeed, she is so central she is called the "female spiritual principle."
In this Gnostic text, Sophia takes the form of the serpent in Eden and approaches Eve. Sophia convinces Eve to eat the fruit of the tree, causing her expulsion from paradise. After she is done speaking to Eve, the spirit of Sophia abandons the snake, causing it to collapse on the ground.